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Yahia Lababidi





I buried your face, someplace

by the side of the new road

so I would not trip over it

every morning or on evening strolls


still, I am helplessly drawn

to the scene of this crime

for fear of forgetting

the sum of your splendor


then there’s also the rain

that loosens the soil

to reveal a bewitching feature

awash with emotion


an eye, perhaps tender or

a pale, becalmed cheek

a mouth tight with reproach or

lips pursed in a deathless smile


other times you are inscrutable

worse, is when I seem to lose you

and pick at the earth like a scab

frantic, and faithful, like a dog.




I cannot bear

the perfumed air

of certain poets


where all is sweetness and verse until someone dares to speak without scenting their words first.




He plays with fire

up against the night sky

he looks like a man

juggling the stars


Now humbly bowing

harnessing elements

the chains mystically dissolve

only the graceful dance remains


Slow dancing the figure twirls

like a Sufi in a skirt of flame

or some spiritual bullfighter

with his twisting cape ablaze


Until amid luminous circus wheels

the flame ritual dies out

trailing a numinous light

like esoteric script across the sky.

Knot Magazine Fall Issue 2014

Yahia Lababidi is an Egyptian-American thinker and poet, nominated for a Pushcart Prize by World Literature Today magazine. He has been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, and in the Guardian, among other places.


Lababidi's first book SIGNPOSTS TO ELSEWHERE (Jane Street Press) was selected as a 2008 Book of the Year by The Independent (UK). "Signposts" (available as an autographed paperback only from the publishers) was followed by well-received collections of literary and cultural essays, TRIAL BY INK: From Nietzsche to Belly Dancing (available electronically from Common Ground Publishing); poetry, FEVER DREAMS; and a series of literary dialogues with Alex Stein, THE ARTIST AS MYSTIC: Conversations with Yahia Lababidi. His latest is a new collection of short poems, BARELY THERE (Wipf and Stock, 2013).


Lababidi's writing has been translated into several languages, including: Arabic, Hebrew, Slovak, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Dutch, and Swedish. Otherwise, several video-poems based on his work, have been shown at film festivals, worldwide, while Lababidi has participated in international poetry festivals throughout the USA, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. 


He is the only contemporary Arab writer featured in the encyclopedia: Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists, and the youngest poet included in the best-selling US college textbook, Literature: an Introduction to Reading and Writing (10th edition). Lababidi was chosen as a Juror for the 2012 Neustadt International Prize for Literature - a biennial award widely considered to be the most prestigious international literary prize after the Nobel Prize in Literature.


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